UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff can only do so much.
Sixth-ranked Iowa needs to become more than a two-man offensive team, as it was in Wednesday’s disappointing 79-75 loss at Penn State, in the final four-game push toward a possible Big Ten Conference championship.
It makes sense that the Hawkeyes would look to Jok and Uthoff, two of the conference’s top scorers, to lead them back to prosperity following the emotional loss at Indiana a week ago.
“We always try to lead the charge offensively,” Uthoff said.
But the numbers show that they can’t be the only ones. In the last two games against Minnesota (0-13 in the Big Ten entering Thursday) and Penn State (now 4-9), Jok and Uthoff have combined for 98 of Iowa’s 150 points.
That’s 65.3 percent of the output. Iowa’s third-leading scorers against Penn State had six points.
That needs to change, starting with next Wednesday’s 8 p.m. home showdown against Wisconsin.
“We’ve got to get some other people stepping up,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
The Iowa forward says his team can't dwell on what happened at Penn State.
There are a number of candidates to re-emerge as a third (or fourth and fifth) scorer:
After recording double-doubles in five of his previous seven games, the 7-foot-1 center has gone quiet in the last two. He’s attempted two total shots in those games in 53 minutes — making one, an early dunk against Penn State — and scored seven points.
Woodbury just hasn’t had many touches. He needs to demand the ball inside, and teammates need to find him. Even if Woodbury doesn’t shoot, he’s an excellent passer who facilitates ball movement.
“We’re relying on those guys a little too much,” Woodbury said of Jok and Uthoff. “At times, we force those guys into bad shots on the shot clock. We’ve got to rectify some of those problems and just get better.”
The senior guard, who has been battling a cold the last two games, was hard on himself after the Penn State loss. He didn’t score a basket or have an assist in 17 minutes of action after halftime.
When Clemmons is aggressive, he’s been effective. His offensive skills are overshadowed by his status as a lock-down defender.
He knows he needs to use his athleticism to help give Iowa’s offense a boost, like he did with a 20-point night at Rutgers on Jan. 21. He’s the only Hawkeye other than Jok and Uthoff to score in double figures the past two games (12 in the 75-71 win over Minnesota).
“Myself in particular,” Clemmons said, “I have to do a better job of helping them and take the pressure off them.”
Where is the scorer who had 25 points to lead Iowa past Michigan State in the Big Ten season opener?
In the last two games, Gesell’s ball-distribution numbers are fantastic — 16 assists, no turnovers. But opponents are leaving him wide open, and he’s misfirng, almost always short. Gesell is a combined 3-for-16 with 11 points since scoring 17 at Indiana.
“We’ve got to get Mike and Sappy (Clemmons) going,” McCaffery said.
During Iowa’s 1-2 dip after a 10-1 Big Ten start, the bench has been outscored 84-16 by opponents. Part of that disparity comes from McCaffery's heavy reliance on his starters. All five played 30-plus minutes Wednesday.
Sophomore forwards Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer, McCaffery’s top-scoring reserves, were good Wednesday — 4-for-6 shooting, 10 points. But there’s more room for aggressiveness.
Uhl is a 47.9-percent 3-point shooter, but he hasn’t attempted a 3 in Iowa’s last three games. In that same span, freshman Ahmad Wagner’s emergence has slowed, with two total points in 32 minutes.
The Hawkeyes had Thursday off from practice. Friday, they’ll get back at it and try to find a way to finish the regular season strong for the second consecutive year. They're still 20-6 overall and tied for first in the Big Ten at 11-3.
Iowa went on a 6-0 finishing kick after last year’s toughest loss (at Northwestern) to tie for third in the Big Ten. Can it similarly respond to the upset in Happy Valley?
“We’re just going to try to take it one day at a time,” Jok said, “going to try to recover and get our legs back as a team.”
Iowa’s offensive output in the last two games:
Peter Jok — 55 points (15-29 FG, 17-19 FT)
Jarrod Uthoff — 43 points (13-33 FG, 14-19 FT)
Everyone else — 52 points (17-46 FG, 15-27 FT)